Next-gen OQO ultra-portable computer coming

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Chicago (IL) - OQO has been selling its portable "model 01" computer more about 26 months without significant changes. The once much anticipated design has settled in a market niche that is now being populated by ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs). Rumors about a potential successor have flying around for some time, but a FCC filing now confirms that the device will be announced soon.

Almost three years back, when the OQO was first presented to the public, I was absolutely convinced that the company (just like Flipstart PC) had a winner on its hand. A fully equipped Windows XP PC in a format slightly larger than a PDA would make a perfect companion for basic on-the-road computing. Unfortunately, the OQO had several drawbacks, including somewhat disappointing performance and a $2000 price tag. Rumors about updates were surfacing quickly, but ended up only in a slightly enhanced device in September of last year. The model 01+ - that switched the 20 GB hard drive for a 30 GB version, integrated 512 MB instead of 256 MB of system memory and offered Windows XP Tablet PC Edition as an option - for a list price of $2200.

Today, the OQO model 01+ sells from $1200 and will be replaced by a completely new design soon. According to a filing published on the FCC website today, the new ultra-portable computer has been approved by the organization and could be ready for introduction in the near future. Expect the model 02 to make its debut during CES 2007 (January 8-11) or earlier.

Images and technical specifications of the device have not been published due to a confidentiality request by OQO. We will have to wait a few more weeks how the new unit will look like, but it is rather trivial to predict that the new model 02 will be providing significantly more performance than the 1 GHz Transmeta Crusoe, which has been used since the model 01's introduction and has been phased out over the past year. We assume that OQO will continue using an x86 processor, which could either bring a Via C7M-ULV processor (1.06 - 1.5 GHz) with power consumption levels between 3.5 and 7.5 watt or an Intel Core Solo ULV CPU (1.06 GHz, a 1.2 GHz and a 1.33 GHz model will launch at the end of this month.) However, OQO could also go with a Core 2 Duo ULV processor, if the device is intended to run Windows Vista.

Pricing of the model 02 could also be substantially lower than the $2000 of the original device. Samsung's and Asus' UMPCs, which will be direct competitors with the model 02, are selling for around $1000 these days.